Dyslexia and mental health

Our 9-year-old daughter is dyslexic.  Dyslexia runs through both sides of our family although myself and my husband are not dyslexic.  When we started to realise that our daughter was finding reading, writing and spelling difficult at school, we panicked.  We wanted school to solve this for us straight away.  As we have learnt more and more about dyslexia over the past two years we realised that dyslexia is life-long but that most people develop strategies to overcome the barriers.  Our daughter is wonderful, creative, inventive, artistic, considerate, kind, intelligent and hard working.  All those traits will set her up for a wonderful life.

However, we know school is going to be tough, but we continue to focus on the positives and we always talk of dyslexia in a positive way to our daughter. One of my main reasons for this is that our family also has a history of mental health issues.  I can see that my dyslexic daughter is sensitive and has already been doubting herself because she is dyslexic.  I want her to know that dyslexia is not a disability, it is a different way of thinking and that being able to think differently is actually really rather wonderful and makes her unique.

I became a member of Dyslexia Scotland in 2017 and joined the Moray Firth Branch Committee in 2018.  As a result, I was able to attend a recent residential weekend for all branches in Dunblane at which committee members from the various branches across Scotland came together to share their learnings, to meet and talk to each other and gather information from Dyslexia Scotland about new projects and resources and work being done to promote awareness of Dyslexia Scotland.

At the residential weekend, I met adults with dyslexia and parents like myself with dyslexic children, there were also teachers and people from business.  Whether they were looking for support or offering it, everyone was there as a volunteer.  Speaking to people either in the same situation as myself or having gone through something like what my daughter is going through, was so enlightening and so inspiring. These people have had such wonderful varied lives, they have had some fantastic careers and experiences. There were artists, teachers, business owners, civil servants, office managers and more.  All had experienced periods in their life which were challenging and many had experienced periods of mental unwellness largely through their years of education when times are really tough for dyslexics.

We were lucky to have Eugene Adams of Our Mind Matters come and talk to us about mental health and self-esteem in children and his work in the education sector trying to assist children who need support and assist teachers in providing that support.  Children (and adults) with dyslexia are highly susceptible to have low self-esteem and possible mental unwellness and although Eugene was not talking about children with dyslexia specifically, it was good to hear Eugene talk about how to support mental health in children.  For me the key things were to listen, be positive and promote being active.  I will ensure that I always talk to my daughter about dyslexia being a positive thing, I will try to always listen and make sure that she knows she can come to speak to me or someone else she trusts at any time and I will always encourage her to be active whether that be in sport and physical activity or participating in something she enjoys such as arts and creative activities.

Mental health affects everyone not just people with dyslexia although the evidence does suggest that people with dyslexia are highly likely to suffer mental ill-health at some point and most probably during their education years. We need to remove any stigma associated with both dyslexia and mental health.  I want to encourage the 10% of the population with dyslexia to feel strong enough to say, “I have dyslexia and I am not stupid”.

By Mandy Clinch

If you need help and support, call Dyslexia Scotland’s Helpline on 0344 800 8484 or email: helpline@dyslexiascotland.org.uk

For more information about dyslexia, please visit our main website:

www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk

Or our website dedicated to supporting children and young aged 8+:

www.unwrapped.dyslexiascotland.org.uk

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